For 11 years in this space - and while Stephen F. Austin was in the Southland Conference - I created my own version of the Southland All-Conference Teams. These posts were often my most read of the year and they almost always led to conversations among people both here at SFA and around the league. My musings about HOW all-conference teams can, should, and might be constructed is well chronicled in the archives of this site. For my take on this, you can click the "2019" link in the right sidebar and easily find the post to the 11th and final rendition of my Southland All-Conference picks.
In the WAC, coaches are asked for nominations. Then, those players that are nominated are voted upon by these same coaches and from the rankings submitted, the all-conference lists are formed. I've long frowned on the "nomination" phase of this process, but I understand why it is done.
Honoring players is always good. But, there's more than one way to do it and I'm not sure it can be proven that one way is superior to another. Oh, I've tried to make that argument. Again, search through the pages of the blog if you dare. I've tried to construct logic for how I always made all of those old Southland lists in this space. My main observation about typical All-Conference lists has always been this: the lists are not teams - not teams in the truest sense of the word. I'm not the only one that this bothers, but again, I understand the way that many conferences do this and I'm done trying to convince others that one way is better than another. Instead, the spirit of this and all future posts like it is simply to champion the idea that honoring players is always good and that there is more than one way to do that.
My take on this is simple: Construct a first team, second team and third team that ARE ACTUAL TEAMS. That is, my teams have two outside hitters, a right side hitter, two middle blockers, a setter and a libero. That makes seven and then I add a wild card (WC) to each team to allow for a total of eight "starters" (imagine 5-1 plus extras or 6-2 structure). I'm not a fan of a "1st Team All-Conference" list that has five outsides, one middle and two liberos with no setter or right side hitter. That's not really a "team" as might be constructed at the start of a typical match.
I'll also throw in some "honorable mentions" because again, the spirit here is that honoring players is always good. Why be stingy?
Disclaimer: (Yes, I need this. My history in the Southland dictates this is necessary) This post was published BEFORE the official All-WAC teams were announced by the conference. I do this independently and DO NOT discuss my picks with coaches or representatives from the institutions (including SFA!!) beforehand. Believe it or not, but in the Southland I got accused once or twice of actually influencing the voters because I would publish the lists before the coaches turned their rankings in. I found that claim absurd, but started publishing the list the day or two before the league announced the real winners so that the voting would be over or ending.
I have called on ESPN+ or on radio a match involving every team in the league this year. I have personally called and/or watched each team in the league play entire matches multiple times. Based on what I do for a living, statistical analysis weighs HEAVY in making my picks. But, I've been calling collegiate volleyball for a decade now and so the "eyeball" test is in here too. But just know.. numbers/stats are what will always drive me. Put numbers up or shut up is how I look at things in the sport world most often.
You probably can tell from reading this: I have a lot of thoughts on lists like this and one theory I squarely adhere to is that these are NOT team awards. Just because a team does well does NOT imply it should have a certain number of athletes represented. Great players from teams with poor records should still be recognized if worthy. This is one shortcoming I notice on basically every conference's lists - the teams down in the standings too often get completely shut out. Now, there isn't room for every school usually, but again, I see no need to shut players out just because they play for a team down in the standings.
NEW THIS YEAR: I am including a statistical breakdown after each list. This breakdown includes "Stat Pros" and where appropriate "Stat Lows". A Stat Low is a ranking within the players' position group that places them in the bottom half of the starters in the conference for that statistic.
Without more delay except to say that a) I will be at the WAC Tournament all weekend long and would be willing to talk All-Conference picks with anyone who would like and b) you can always email me at email@example.com with thoughts, let's get to it:
2023 SFA VolleyBlog 1st Team All-WAC